Within several hours of John Kerry's slip of the tongue, the President of the United States, the leader of the free world, found time to rush to the mikes to somehow, perhaps, to change the subject from how badly they've botched just about everything.
As James Carville said "Kerry may have blown a joke. Bush has blown a war."
I'm not really worried about the Kerry remark. Yes the right-wing spin machine will grab and toss it hard into the debate. Yes the news organizations will oblige, and pick it up for a day or so. But at the end of the day, the uncommon good sense of the common people will prevail. For they have already decided that this election will not be about nothing, but will be about the future of our country.
The people have already come to believe that the nation has gone off track. That our foreign policy has failed. That our occupation of Iraq needs a new path. That Bin Laden is still on the loose, and Al Qaeda is growing again. That Katrina showed we are not ready. That we cannot balance our books, and borrow too much from abroad. That it has become harder to get ahead. That college has become too expensive, health insurance too uncertain, retirement an extraordinary struggle. That global climate change has turned from science fiction to fact, and that we have done nothing to lessen our dependence on foreign energy sources. That the governing party has become too corrupt, and more concerned about their power than America's success.
The American people understand that this is a serious time, one where important choices must be made. They are looking for firm, honest, leadership. The President of the United States, in his insistence that Iraq is doing fine, that the economy is strong and that Democrats are not to be trusted is only serving to remind the American people how tired they've grown of the Republican's commitment to politics over governing; and will in these final days do what is necessary to usher in a new and better era for the great country we love.
We can see now that Google is going big time into social software, the area that rival search engine Yahoo! had been leading in. Google just announced that they are buying Jotspot, a leading company helping popularize wikis, or software that allows many, many people to write and edit on the same document.
Wikis have yet to go mainstream, but they are proving to be very useful among more techie crowds. It allows people from all over the world to easily work on common projects, such as an attempt to create a bottom-up encyclopedia, or wikipedia.
Google’s purchase will give a boost to popularize the tools. Jotspot itself was known for making wikis much more user friendly, by adopting many of the conventions that people are used to in word processing programs like Microsoft Word. The two together will help spread the word.
Not long ago a good rule of thumb was that Google relied more on advanced technology in their offerings, while Yahoo! focused more on user input and social software. Yahoo made some early purchases, like that of Flickr, the photo-sharing company, that started to stake out that turf. But now Google is jumping on the bandwagon with its recent acquisition of YouTube and now Jotspot. The trend is becoming clear….
On the stump these days the President says his Party is trying to win the "war" in Iraq. Last week they offered a new "plan," which even the Iraqi PM called a political stunt. Remarkably this new plan includes no political talks, no attempts to work through the political disagreements driving a great deal of the current unrest. Of course, this new plan focuses almost entirely on how we will better deploy force, with more American troops in the short term and eventually a turning over security responsibilities to the Iraqi military and police.
This continued emphasis on force, already discredited, is further so in the Post today as local politics has already eliminated the reliability of one of the two pillars of the new "plan," the Iraqi police:
..."BAGHDAD -- The signs of the militias are everywhere at the Sholeh police station.
Posters celebrating Moqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army militia, dot the building's walls. The police chief sometimes remarks that Shiite militias should wipe out all Sunnis. Visitors to this violent neighborhood in the Iraqi capital whisper that nearly all the police officers have split loyalties.
And then one rainy night this month, the Sholeh police set up an ambush and killed Army Cpl. Kenny F. Stanton Jr., a 20-year-old budding journalist, his unit said. At the time, Stanton and other members of the unit had been trailing a group of Sholeh police escorting known Mahdi Army members.
"How can we expect ordinary Iraqis to trust the police when we don't even trust them not to kill our own men?" asked Capt. Alexander Shaw, head of the police transition team of the 372nd Military Police Battalion, a Washington-based unit charged with overseeing training of all Iraqi police in western Baghdad. "To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure we're ever going to have police here that are free of the militia influence."
The top U.S. military commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., predicted last week that Iraqi security forces would be able to take control of the country in 12 to 18 months. But several days spent with American units training the Iraqi police illustrated why those soldiers on the ground believe it may take decades longer than Casey's assessment.
Seventy percent of the Iraqi police force has been infiltrated by militias, primarily the Mahdi Army, according to Shaw and other military police trainers. Police officers are too terrified to patrol enormous swaths of the capital. And while there are some good cops, many have been assassinated or are considering quitting the force.
"None of the Iraqi police are working to make their country better," said Brig. Gen. Salah al-Ani, chief of police for the western half of Baghdad. "They're working for the militias or to put money in their pocket.....""
In addition to Rob's remarks, Paul Krugman gave the keynote at today's New America conference. I don't know if his speech is being released, but i took some notes here. His view is that the biggest problems are housing and the trade deficit, and that he sides with the pessimists in the national debate. He was especially interesting on how to respond. (I stress these are notes from his remarks, not a transcript. So please don't treat them as verbatim.)
The thing to be worried about is the difficulty of a policy response. We normally count on the Fed to respond. (Bernanke, on the whole, has had his judgment on rates vindicated.) But if this turns nasty, what will the Fed do? They will cut rates. And will this help? Where is the traction on the real economy? The problem is that rate cuts stimulate the economy mostly through the housing and construction market. In truth, business investment is not sensitive to the Fed and consumers don’t respond. Housing is where the rubber meets the road. So that is a worry.
The gist of his remarks, and others at the conference, were not encouraging. There seemed to be consensus that growth would decline, while unemployment would rise by roughly a percentage point, over the coming year. So even if there isn't a recession it, in Krugman's words, will feel like there is one. And, as we've been saying for a while here, this will become the first expansion since the Great Depression without a rise in wages or incomes. Indeed, it seems the economic good times are over - before they really began.
Earlier today NDN's Globalization Initiative Director Dr. Robert J. Shapiro joined Paul Krugman and an array of leading economists, commentators and journalists at a major conference organized by the New America Foundation in Washington DC to discuss the worsening economic situation, and what can be done to make the American economy work for all Americans once again. The conference marked the launch of a new and exciting economic program at New America.
Last week’s GDP figures were the worst since 2003. And as Krugman himself outlines in his New York Times column today, much of this is due to the fast decline in the housing market. But because the economic situation for most Americans is getting worse, there are other factors at play too. As Rob says in his speech today:
By historical standards, overall growth since 2002 has been generally strong, and productivity gains have been extraordinarily strong. Yet the conditions for most Americans more closely resemble a downturn than a healthy expansion.... It’s hard to overstate the importance of these changes.
Anyone interested in what is happen to our economy, why Bush gets no credit for the overall economic expansion, and what we must do to create an economy that works for all Americans.
In the speech Rob lays out a vision in which progressives understand the huge changes underway in the global economy, including the rise of China, and respond here at home:
If we want to restore the historical connections between growth and jobs and between productivity and wages -- knowing that we cannot reduce the intensity of global competition, nor that we should try to – we have to ease some of the cost pressures on U.S. businesses.To spur stronger job creation and wage gains, it’s time to swallow hard and put in place new national programs that can slow the rising costs of health care, pensions and energy for U.S. businesses and all Americans.
Rob Shapiro is one of the smartest guys I’ve met in DC. He has been at the forefront of the debate over declining wages that has made a real impact in these elections. And I’m proud that Rob continues to step up and lead the progressive debate over the economy here at NDN.
I was at an economics conference today - of which more later - in which Paul Krugman said he wasn't all that worried about what he called the "Lou Dobbsification" of the American economy. Dobbs has another book out, so we can expect to see more of him frothing, foaming, raging, rallying and - damn it! - standing up for the little guy, swaggering by with a full arsenal of economic bungles almost certain to make the little guy, and the little guy's children, worse off. Timely, then, that the pen of Peter Beinart is let loose on the man today:
Who is the most left-wing commentator on mainstream television? Keith Olbermann? Bill Maher? Not even close. I'm talking about a man who says both parties are "bought and paid for by corporate America," and calls lobbyists "arms dealers in the war on the middle class." This latter-day William Jennings Bryan denounces the "corporate supremacists" in Congress who write "consumer-crippling" bankruptcy laws, pass job-exporting free-trade deals, and raise the interest on college loans.... I refer, of course, to Lou Dobbs..... To some degree, the left's response has been to treat Dobbs as two different people. In August, in an article devoted to Dobbs's immigration rants, The Nation accused him of "hysteria and jingoism" and called him "McCarthyesque." By contrast, Mother Jones, in 2005, published a friendly interview with the man it called "mad as hell about offshore outsourcing and faith-based economics."
One more bit of political technology polling news, this time about the web and politics. AP and AOL News studied Americans use of the Web this election. It's results strongly supports the NPI New Tools Campaign, and it's push for campaigns to engage the blogs and the web...
This AP news article summarizes: “The poll, released Friday, suggested that some 35 percent of Americans, or 43 percent of likely voters, go online for election information.
More than half, 51 percent, of those who describe themselves as liberals are more likely to obtain election information from the Internet compared with 42 percent of moderates and 39 percent of conservatives, according to the AP/AOL News poll.
The poll also found nearly a quarter, 24 percent, of respondents who spy the Net for political news indicated they have accessed a blog during this election season. About 10 percent of Internet users have accessed a message board, chat room or blog to participate in election discussions.”
Also, along with the power of the blogs, this highlights the power of political web sites in general: 45% of Americans who go online for political news went to non-blog “political sites” to get informed about issues and candidates in prep for the next election. From the polling:
“For each of the following, please tell me if you have used this resource as a way of obtaining information about candidates and the campaign for the upcoming congressional elections on the Internet, or not. How about . . . ?”
We've worked hard here at NDN to make raising the minimum wage an issue in this election, specifically in Arizona and Colorado. And we're not the only ones who realize the value in doing so.
Ezra Klein notes that Republicans have framed the issue successfully (for the last nine years), making it "an article of faith...that minimum wage increases lead to widespread unemployment, and such an intuitive argument, that society would have to be a pretty bizarre place not to abandon the wrongheaded policy altogether." A commentor on that site calls it a "rabbit-out-of-the-hat excuse," but either way, Republicans aren't spitting much evidence.
If anything, the graph Klein shows, depicting employment in San Francisco and Alameda (SF had increased its minimum wage) should be enough to dislodge the argument that has dominated this debate and allow a minimum wage increase to pass:
If the plain and simple lines of this graph don't suit you, the Economic Policy Insitute defends the idea extensively. Perhaps the most persuasive argument, which Klein also notes--"Hundreds of Economists Say: Raise the Minimum Wage."